We recently spoke with Aaron Schildkrout, co-founder of online dating site HowAboutWe, about how to build a startup. He also has a great philosophy on how the entrepreneurial movement is part of a much larger societal shift, and it’s changing the way we live, work and date.Here’s what he told us:
“We’re living in radical times. The current pace of cultural transformation is more rapid than perhaps at any time, ever. Over the past, maybe 10 years, we’ve entered what you could call a time of Actualism. Other people have named this Post-Post Modernism. Living an authentic life is valued more now than ever before in human history. And authenticity is understood, above all, as being about creating value in the world. This is apparent in the tremendous rise of maker culture and entrepreneurialism. In fact, I would say that the entrepreneur is the quintessential emblem of our time.
The other day I noticed that on Mayor Bloomberg’s Twitter description, the first thing it says is that he’s an entrepreneur. Later he mentions being mayor of New York. But it’s entrepreneur first. That’s so telling. People in our time believe that their task — as humans — is to create things that people want, need and love. This is what it means — for our generation — to be real and to make meaning.
This first manifested in the late 90s with the first Internet wave and the public service movement. Both were representations of this new ethos. The Internet is the bedrock of this tidal transformation. More than any invention ever it allows humans to very rapidly and very cheaply create value for nearly everyone on the planet.
Work is transforming in accordance with this. Work is the making of value — and so it makes sense that as value-creation becomes increasingly central to our understanding of human life, work is changing. People are looking at work, more and more, as an expression of themselves. Everyone I know is hatching ideas, becoming inventors, considering what’s next.
Relationships, marriage, and sex are also transforming. Patriarchy has collapsed, whether or not you buy the ‘downfall of man’ theory popularised recently by Hanna Rosin. Women are on a trajectory toward financial prowess — making more money than men, controlling household spending choices, dominating enrollment in managerially oriented graduate programs, and better embodying qualities most valued in today’s high skill jobs. Men seem headed for a significant economic and social crisis, so the theory goes. The deep architecture of gender roles is shifting. Alongside this, the nature of relationships is changing dramatically. People are living together without being married. It’s increasingly common for people to have children in their 30s. People are pickier about their mates. We tend to fall in love more often before we settle down. The nature of commitment itself is changing. People’s experience of authenticity and self-reliance is stronger now than ever, and this changes what it means to ‘need’ someone else.
Again, the Internet plays a pivotal role in facilitating and driving this metamorphosis in relationships. This time in the form of online dating sites: more options, more anonymity, more decision making based on high speed looks-based impressions. The original dating websites were created to help people chat and meet online. They weren’t so oriented towards helping people actually meet in real world. More recently — driven in no small part through HowAboutWe‘s invention of the idea of ‘offline dating’ — most dating sites are emphasising meeting in the real world. This seems to me — though I’m obviously biased being a founder of HowAboutWe and someone who very much loves the real world — to be a healthy focus.
Look at any area of human life and you will see a similar, radical change taking place. Is it good? I don’t know. I tend to experience this as a positive evolution, as a progression. It feels to me like people are becoming truer, realer, more themselves. Many people bemoan the alienation of the modern age. I think that’s just a pathology that comes along with the progress, the dark underbelly of something ultimately enlightening and strong. We shall see. I, for one, am excited for the future. It feels like we’re already living in it — and it’s good.”
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